Story and photos: By LIBBY MOTIKA
Circling the News Contributor
“No place to run, no place to hide,” so the song goes. In real time, our task is to use our imaginations to stimulate our minds and soothe our nerves during this time of social isolation.
We are exploring all the untapped resources inside our own homes: Books to read, music to discover, and the enormous stockpile of online content. But, that doesn’t quell the desire to go outside, to breathe the clean, spring air and to stretch our limbs.
With the possibilities to hike in our canyons, picnic in our parks, and access the beach curtailed, a walk in the neighborhood can easily sharpen our senses and lift our mood.
This is the season when gardens are exploding in bloom and humming with life. It’s almost as if Nature has come to the rescue.
After all, this is the season for garden tours, alas, all cancelled this year.
This kind of outing is more of a stroll than a power walk or run. As you wander through your neighborhood, the fragrances and vibrant colors will be the first to call attention.
Orange trees are in bloom, wafting their jasmine-like aroma. Lavender is flowering, whose scent is not only pleasing to us, but also deters mosquitoes, flies, fleas and other problem insects while attracting butterflies and bees.
The lime-scented geranium’s leaves are toothed with a nice fresh lime scent. They can also be dried and used in potpourri.
As you walk on, you will begin to see the diversity of wildlife. Certain gardens will provide more habitats for birds, bees and arthropods (insects, spiders, centipedes, mites and the like) than others.
While parklands make up about 3 to 4 percent of the United States, by comparison yards make up roughly 17 percent, according to Susannah Lerman, co-leader of a National Science Foundation study that focuses on yard-management strategies to increase biodiversity–the variety of life that gives ecosystems their resiliency.
“If we focus on cities, yards make up about 50 percent of our total green space,” Lerman says.
There are generally four-yard types in Los Angeles. These include wildlife friendly, highly managed (fertilized and maintained), passively managed (no fertilizer or lawn care), and water conserving (xeriscapes).
Highly maintained lawns tend to host “generalist” birds such as house sparrows, finches and crows, who are not particularly picky when it comes to their needs for food and nesting.
The wildlife friendly landscape will attract birds that are more specialists. You might not see the titmouse, but you’ll probably hear its “sweety, sweety” notes in spring, or the mourning dove with its “coo, coo, coo” call.
It’s always a thrill to see one of the many varieties of hummingbirds that frequent our yards. Native plants such as scarlet sage and trumpet vine deliver the nectar they love.
Be on the lookout for butterflies, and if you spot a pond or fountain, you’ll likely see dragonflies, who frequent water to roost and lay eggs.
Finally, notice the nourishing habitat trees provide. If you look carefully, you might see (or hear) a whole community of birds perching, foraging and nesting.
Enjoy this time for slowing down and appreciating our rich natural environment.